CAIRO — The Grady County Board of Commissioners is tired of its lack of progress in permitting Tired Creek.

The recreational development has been in the works for almost 50 years and, for the past year, the board has been striving to get a permit for the lake and dam.

The commissioners have a pre-application meeting on Aug. 3 at the Grady County Courthouse, scheduled by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District Commander Col. Mark Held. Resource agencies with an interest in the project should provide a representative at the meeting.

“I think we need to get some answers on why we keep running into small hurdles,” said Charles Norton, vice-chairman. “I just think we have a problem at the state level. I can’t define it, but I have that feeling that we are not getting full cooperation out of the state.”

This meeting came about after the board sent a letter to Rep. Sanford Bishop on May 18, asking him to become involved in the project’s application process.

“He asked a member on his staff to call Col. Held to see if we could find out what actually is going to happen in the next few months,” said County Administrator Rusty Moye. “The board thinks that we’re getting asked to do things out of the ordinary. We want to discuss the requirements that need to be fulfilled before the project can be issued for public notification. We feel this is the best way to go instead of having to keep going back and changing things.”

Issues to be discussed at the meeting include: project need and purpose; wetland/stream delineation for the project site; wetland/stream impacts; alternatives analysis; endangered species and mitigation.

The idea of Tired Creek began in 1969 when local businessmen and the state decided Grady County was a great area for a state park. The Department of Natural Resources agreed and funding was acquired for the project.

The land was purchased utilizing state, local and federal funds. The federal government gave $334,000, the state gave $164,000 and Grady County gave $171,000.

A warranty deed was drawn up with the state that described the approximately 3,000-acre property. The state went out and dug a well, built a ranger house, put in a couple of bathroom areas and a maintenance shed.

In 1974, due to budget constraints, the DNR decided it was not going to build more state parks at the time.

The idea for Tired Creek was then dropped for approximately 20 years. Grady County workers cut walking trails through the property and took care of it, renting out the ranger house and agricultural land to local farmers.

Tired Creek resurfaced in 1993 when the county commissioners decided to try to do something about the property.

The board requested that the state give the property back to the county. On Sept. 2, 1994, the state deeded it back with a Quitclaim Deed — with two exceptions: Grady County could not sell the property without the Georgia General Assembly and State Properties Commission’s permission and the harvesting of any timber products had to be under the supervision of the Georgia Forestry Commission, with any revenue from such harvesting only used toward improvements in or on the property.

Several committees made up of county residents were then appointed by the board to come up with different ideas on how to proceed with the development of the land. They met for three years.

In 1998-1999, Grady County had the land surveyed. A plat was recorded on Dec. 21, 2000. The property was marked in 2004 with metal fence posts painted fluorescent yellow and marked the trees with blue paint to form boundaries.

During this period, the county started the preliminary process of permitting to identify — among other things — the wetlands, stream bank mitigation and endangered species.

Several reports were issued and the dam was classified as category 2 by the Environmental Protection Division.

In October 2001, the commissioners met with the DNR commission and the EPD director to discuss the project and where to go from there. It was suggested that the county hire a consultant who was familiar with the process of obtaining a 404 permit to assist them in getting it. Since November 2001, Tommy Craig has been working with the board through the permitting process.

“Four years ago, the recommendation of the DNR and EPD was that the state would be no problem,” said Norton. “Now it seems like we are having some trouble inside the DNR. Some questions need to be answered.”

Moye said the board met on April 5 with the Army Corp. of Engineers to discuss the application and its process. He said the corp. gave the board some items to improve in its permit application.

One was the project purpose.

“They didn’t agree with it being fishing, recreation and economic development,” said Moye. “They just wanted one actual purpose so we settled on fishing to build a 960 acre fishing lake. That is how the permit is written now.”

The second item was to obtain stronger support from the DNR.

“We had not previously shown where we had discussed this project with the DNR and the Corp. thought it would be a very good idea,” he said. “They thought it would make the application that much better if the department showed their support for this project in this area.”

The board has met with the DNR and Moye said that it liked the project, but was not sure how strongly it could support Tired Creek at this time.

“We’re still gathering data and information as to how many fishing trips are required in this area for people living here,” said Moye. “They survey the fisherman in southwest Georgia and how many lakes and places there are for people to go and fish on a day trip (within 50 miles). We should have that information soon from Mike Maceina, our fisheries expert from Auburn University, who has been gathering information and putting it in presentation form for the Wildlife Resources Division of the DNR. Once they review that information, they should issue some type of letter of support for the project.”

A third problem area was wetlands delineation.

“They wanted us to go back because there was at first a map developed by Doug Pope of Albany that showed 156 acres of wetland and the second map that was developed showed 105 acres of wetlands,” said Moye. “They had questions regarding the difference of those two maps and how it was determined to be 105 acres versus 156 acres. We had Mr. Pope write a letter to explain the differences. The first map included ephemeral streams (dry, drainage areas only used during rains) as wetlands.”

Moye said that the board did not feel a survey of the wetlands should be a requirement now because of the additional money required and that the land has already been certified as 105 acres.

Once the kinks are worked out, the next step is public notification of the project.

“Everybody involved (the agencies) gets a copy of the description of the project and that’s when we start hearing comments against development or issuance of permits of the project,” said Moye. “We’ll see how much more information we need to gather before we can have it issued. We’re going to continue to gather information and look forward to the meeting.”

Norton said the board was told in December by the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers’ Tom Fischer, once the application was in the court’s hands, that it had to rule on it in 120 days.

“Every day it is costing us money,” he said. “We’ve spent a little over $1 million dollars on this permit application for studies and consultants and the whole deal. We need to come up with an answer of yes, build the lake, or, no, we’re not. We need to bring this to closure one way or another.”

Still, Norton said that he hoped the application would be approved and Tired Creek would become a reality.

“It would be a benefit to surrounding counties and Grady County,” he said. “It would be a good recreation lake.”

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